Hormones have a huge impact on the way that we feel on a daily basis. Feeling miserable? That will be the hormones. Feeling angry? Hormones. Struggling to sleep? Probably hormones.
And hormones also make us gain weight. If you’ve ever wondered why some people seem to be able to eat whatever they want and never gain any weight while others have to starve themselves, hormones are again the answer.
The question then, is how specifically hormones lead to weight gain and what you can do about it.
Hormones and Metabolism
Your metabolism defines how quickly your body burns through the energy you give it. If you are someone who is highly metabolic, then you’re going to find that you burn fat quickly and you’re probably very lean, slim or even ‘skinny’.
On the other hand, those of us who have slow metabolisms will be much more likely to gain weight and will have lower energy as well.
Specifically though, what is it that is causing this hormonal change and leading to the extra weight?
The main contributor is insulin. Insulin is a hormone that effectively takes the energy from sugar and puts it into a useable form. Unfortunately, that ‘useable’ energy (ATP) often ends up getting stored as fat because we spend too much time being pretty much static when we’re commuting, working or doing whatever else.
A few things trigger insulin and make it more likely to get released. One of those things is a spike in blood sugar, which results in a rush of insulin. Eating ‘fast carbs’ causes this problem in particular as the sugar goes straight to the blood stream in one go.
If you eat complex carbs or saturated fats on the other hand, the sugar will be released more slowly into the blood as they are digested meaning there’s never the same ‘spike’.
Grehlin and Leptin
Other hormones also play a role though. Grehlin for instance is the ‘hunger’ hormone that is responsible for most of our snacking behavior. The thing to know about grehlin is that it works often on a ‘cycle’ and gets released more at certain times (roughly every hour).
In other words, if you can ‘hang in there’ when you’re really hungry, it will normally pass. Leptin works in contrast to grehlin and is what decreases hunger. Grehlin is most often triggered when blood sugar is low and so maintaining a healthy balance is the key here – ideally with complex carbs and fats.
For preventing insulin spikes and troughs, the slow carb diet is a good choice.
Estrogen and Weight Gain
Estrogen can also cause weight gain. Estrogen is the female hormone (as compared with the male hormone, testosterone) and is the reason that most women carry a little more fat than men. Women with excess estrogen will often have ‘apple’ or ‘pear’ shaped bodies as they accumulate fat towards the bottom of their torso.
The best solution is to increase exercise, to eat foods like steak with spike testosterone and to consider HRT if the problem continues. The progesterone pill is useful for fixing estrogen dominance in women.